Field trials for new hybrid rice underway in Mwea

The ongoing hybrid rice research at the KARLO Centre, within the Mwea Irrigation scheme where a high yielding variety is undergoing field trials. (Standard)
Crop researchers have come up with a high yielding rice variety that is currently under trial at the Mwea Irrigation Scheme.

The hybrid variety that takes a shorter time to mature is undergoing field trials on 400 acres.

Developed by researchers

The variety has been developed by researchers at the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (ATF), in collaboration with those from the Kenya Agricultural Research and Livestock Organisation (Kalro).

According to Kayonde Sanni, the project manager for rice at the ATF, the development is in line with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda, especially on food security.

“The objective of this project is to achieve prosperity for farmers through technology as will be evidenced through the hybrid variety,” said the researcher.

He said there was greater need for adoption of the technology in order to increase rice production in Africa.

Country's production

Sanni said the level of rice consumption in Kenya stood at 650,000 tonnes a year against a 150,000 tonnes production.

“As a result, the deficit is met by the importation of 500,000 tonnes of rice yearly,” he said.

Sanni said production of rice in Kenya stood at two tonnes per hectare, compared to the global production of 4.3 per hectare, hence the deficit.

He said consumption of rice had increased by 13 per cent, while productivity grew by 3 per cent and therefore the need to boost production in the country.

“The development of the hybrid rice involves bringing two different types of rice together to triple productivity,” the expert said.

The project jointly spearheaded by Sanni and John Kimani, Kalro manager at Kimbimbi Centre, has already engaged 25 full-time employees to deal with the challenge of inadequate information being presented to farmers.

The national rice performance trials started 10 years ago to come up with five types of hybrid seeds, which will be released to farmers by the end of this year, according to Kimani.

He said if farmers fully adopted the hybrid rice, they would be able to plug production deficit and hence reduce importation of rice from Pakistan and other countries.

Resistant to diseases

Kimani said the new rice variety, apart from improved yield and early maturing, was also resistant to diseases and pests.

He said by 2030 the country should be able to produce enough rice to cut down on importation.

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Mwea Irrigation SchemeNew Rice VarietyAfrican Agricultural Technology FoundationKenya Agricultural Research and Livestock Organisation